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The Tinkered Mind
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January 20th, 2019
During his travels Lucilius took a break and sat beneath a magnificent cedar tree for several years to meditate and contemplate the existence of things.
Local people took a notice to the strange man who sat in silent contemplation day after day and thinking him some kind of spiritual being, they took reverence to his presence and brought him daily food so that he could stay nourished while on the inner journey they all imagined he was embarking on.
One day a curious child walked up to Lucilius while he was meditating and asked a question and when the child reported the incident to his family later that night, word quickly spread that in fact it was an oracle that had taken up residence at the base of the great cedar.
People began to come from far and wide to ask Lucilius questions, and with patience and compassion he did his best to answer each of them.
One quiet day when the lines of people were gone and the air was still, Lucilius was meditating and a young boy appeared at the edge of the grove and slowly walked towards Lucilius. The seated man opened his eyes and took in the image of a boy battered and bruised, dirty and crusted with dried blood on his shins and elbows. The boy wiped sickness away from his running nose and kept his eyes averted from Lucilius.
“Can I help you?” Lucilius asked.
The boy kept his eyes averted, sniffed back his cold again and quietly said. “They say you know what people should do and I don’t know where to go.”
“Where have you come from?” Lucilius asked.
“My family wasn’t nice, so I left.”
“You have travelled far?”
The boy looked up around at the light speckling through the canopy and felt the warm breeze, as though for the first time in many months realizing the change in seasons. He did not say anything but Lucilius could see the time in the boy’s face.
“Sit before me boy and rest yourself.”
The boy collapsed down in a tired heap before Lucilius, his eyes still averted. Lucilius took a bowl of rice and vegetables that had been brought to him earlier in the day and held it out for the boy to take.
“They brought it for you,” the boy said.
“I know just as well as you, how to go without food, but these generous people have kept me out of practice. I’d be honored if you’d help me learn that strength of mind once more and take this food.”
The boy’s shifty eyes met the bowl again and again until the silence stretched out his hand and he took the food. The boy ate furiously and Lucilius watched the story of his face, set hard, primed for the next hardship, expecting it, balanced on the edge of bitterness.
When the boy was finished, and he set the bowl aside, he drank deeply from a wide piece of bamboo full of water. Then he sat silent, his eyes still averted from Lucilius.
And then Lucilius began:
“When I was a boy, growing up far from here, there was a pack of white wolves that lived in the forest to the north of our town. And to the south were the farmers and shepherds. My father contracted me out to the shepherds and the farmers and I would work the fields and watch the sheep. But when I had time to myself, I loved to walk off alone into those woods and during those walks I would often see the white wolves. The villagers hated the white wolves because they would sometimes take a sheep, a lamb or a cow. Everyone wanted to know where the white wolves were so they could kill them, but no one was willing to go off into the woods to find them. Of course, I never told anyone I knew where the white wolves were because the wolves never bothered me.
One season a new litter was born and the smallest was a tiny black wolf. I watched the wolf try to grow with his brothers and sisters but they would all growl at him and the rest of the pack too did not like the small black wolf. Even his father and mother would nip at his heels and he got the least milk of the whole litter from his mother, which kept him small. Everyday they were vicious with him and some days I worried that he would not make it. And then finally one day, he simply left.
I was still under the contract of my father at the time and had to work for the farmers and the shepherds. I was young and I thought the work was boring. All the time all I wanted to do was walk back out into the woods and see the white wolves. But most of my days were spent watching sheep. There was one sheep in particular that was a constant problem. This sheep was always trying to leave the herd and walk off in any direction. Every season there is one or two in a large herd like this, but this one seemed particularly unwise. The herd is safe for a sheep, but this sheep could not sense this truth. He wandered off all the time and we shepherds would chase after him.
On a day off I was walking through a new part of the woods, far away from where I usually watched the white wolves and it was then I came across the Black Wolf. He was crazy in the eye. Crazy from hunger, his dry tongue hanging off to a side and breathing so heavily. I could see every bone along his side, and as he looked at me, I thought he seemed to know me, but I I think I simply wanted to see this in the animal’s eye. As I think back now, that Black Wolf was ready to come after me.
But in that moment, his breathing calmed. His eyes narrowed past me and his body grew tense as he crouched lower, charging the angles of his legs.
As I turned to look behind myself the Black Wolf shot past me, so close I felt the mangy fur slide along my skin. Then I saw his aim.
The lone sheep had wandered far from the herd and stood dumbly at the edge of a clearing.
The lone sheep did not even have time nor the air in it’s lungs to bleat as the Black Wolf tore into it’s neck, taking the sheep’s body down into an instant feast.
I watched the Black Wolf tear at the meat for the entire day, until the sheep was nearly gone. The Black Wolf’s face was a slick dark black with the blood of the kill and afterwards he laid down next to the mess and slept, and there I slept near that Black Wolf through the night. When I awoke, he was gone.
Years later, after I’d left the village and experienced some of the world, I returned to see my sister. During my visit, I went on one of my old walks through the woods and I came across the pack of White Wolves still living near the same den. I was happy to see them, and it was then that I remembered the day with the Black Wolf years before. Just as I began to wonder about the Black Wolf’s fate, he emerged from the den, larger than all the rest, and a litter of grey wolves in tow.”
The boy before Lucilius sat with wide eyes. Lucilius met the boy’s eyes and continued.
“The Black Wolf was forced to go off on his own, but as a lone wolf he carried the lessons of his pack, and it was these lessons, however brutal, however hard won that allowed him to survive and eventually return as a leader. But the lone sheep did not carry the lessons of the herd, otherwise the sheep never would have left the herd, and for that ignorance that sheep paid with his life. But it was that sheep’s ignorance that allowed the Black Wolf to eat and grow strong and become a stronger wolf than the rest of the pack.”
Lucilius breathed deeply and looked up at the canopy shifting gently to a high breeze.
“Today a sheep came to me, but a wolf will leave.”
The boy’s wide eyes were set and deep in them Lucilius could see the same dark fire. The boy stood and turned to leave. The two took a last look at one another and then the boy walked off.
Lucilius then returned to his meditation.